Brazil’s golden-headed lion tamarin is a small primate with a black body and a bright mane of gold and orange. Listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the golden-headed lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas) survives in only a single protected reserve in the largely degraded Atlantic Forest in Brazil. Otherwise its habitat lies in unprotected patches and fragments threatened by urbanization and agricultural expansion. Currently, a natural gas pipeline is being built through prime tamarin habitat.
A new study in the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science sought to find forest patches large enough to contain sustainable populations of the golden-headed lion tamarin even under threats such as fire.
The endangered golden-headed lion tamarin. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Since the Atlantic Forest is largely gone—less than 7 percent of the original forest remains—researchers were only able to locate four forest patches large enough to sustain golden-headed lion tamarins under the most rigorous threats, including disease and fire. But only one patch was large enough to retain genetic diversity after a hundred years, if threats were moderate instead of severe two forest patches remain.
Unfortunately, the researchers expect deforestation to continue in the region. Shade-grown cocoa, a good habitat for golden-headed lion tamarins and many other species, is also threatened to be cleared for plantations given the low price of cocoa.
Citation: Zeigler, S. L., Fagan, W. F., DeFries, R. and Raboy, B. E.. 2010. Identifying Important Forest Patches for the Long-term Persistence of the Endangered Golden-Headed Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas). Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 3 (1):63-77.
(09/23/2009) The Atlantic Forest may very well be the most imperiled tropical ecosystem in the world: it is estimated that seven percent (or less) of the original forest remains. Lining the coast of Brazil, what is left of the forest is largely patches and fragments that are hemmed in by metropolises and monocultures. Yet, some areas are worse than others, such as the Pernambuco Endemism Centre, a region in the northeast that has largely been ignored by scientists and conservation efforts. Here, 98 percent of the forest is gone, and 70 percent of what remains are patches measuring less than 10 hectares. Due to this fragmentation all large mammals have gone regionally extinct and the small mammals are described by Antonio Rossano Mendes Pontes, a professor and researcher at the Federal University of Pernambuco, as the ‘living dead’.
(08/10/2009) Golden lion tamarins play an important role in seed dispersal in Brazil’s Mata Atlantica, report researchers writing in the the journal Tropical Conservation Science.
(05/31/2009) More than 100,000 hectares of Brazil’s most threatened ecosystem was cleared between 2005 and 2008, reports a study by the Fundação SOS Mata Atlãntica and the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The “Atlas of Mata Atlântica Remnants”, released May 26, assessed the extent of the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest) across 10 of the 17 states where the coastal rainforest occurs. It found that an 102,938 hectares were destroyed during the three year period. The annual loss of 34,121 hectares per year was 2.4 percent lower than the 34,965 ha recorded from the 2000-2005 period.